*It's cold and a bit windy. The wild west coast of Vancouver Island often brings us a plethora of crazy weather and quite often all in the same day! The running joke here is if you don't like the weather, just wait 10 minutes! (It often changes that quickly from rain to sunshine) but we love it here, and we wouldn't change a thing!
Back when I started my first daycare, Puddles & Paints; I tried an unfamiliar strategy one day to see if I could calm my overly boisterous group of pre-schoolers.
I suggested we take our sleep mats outside and have our rest time under the trampoline! The response I got was hilarious!
The children immediately ran to grab their mats and blankets and then lined up at the door jumping with excitement.
I thought to myself, "Oh no, what am I thinking?", but I had said the words out loud so I had to follow through.
I grabbed a large bed sheet from the closet first, so I could lay the mats down on the grass and not get them dirty.
The trampoline was not for the daycare children to use (as per VIHA regulations), so just being under it seemed to excite the children.
I lay out the giant sheet, and then the children found spaces all around to place their mats on. There were lots of giggles, and excited little bodies as they settled into their blankets.
Within moments, of course, the inevitable occurred....
"I'm cold!", one child chanted out.
"I have to pee!", another squealed.
"It's too bright, I can't sleep!"
All within the first 3 minutes!
I thought, "Oh no. This is not going to work!"
One by one, it seemed they all had a complaint to file with me.
I remember thinking to myself, "Okay. This is day one. Just stick with it."
I took each child in, as they needed. I grabbed a few extra blankets and a pillow for me to sit on. I filled up a water bottle in case anyone was thirsty, and I brought extra cups.
Day one was not a success in terms of sleep. Not one child fell asleep. But what did happen, kept me believing in this concept for weeks, years and to this very day.
About 20 minutes in to (nap time) I noticed the children really starting to settle down. The giggling had stopped completely, and they had stopped talking to each other. One little girl started to sing to herself (which was a normal way for her to soothe herself), but the children didn't ask her to stop (which was the normal reaction to her singing to herself by the group)
It was much louder outside then we were used to, and I didn't bring the CD player outside with me. The children were quiet....strangely quiet even for nap time.
What was happening?
I sat in silence and listened to the sounds all around me. I could hear the cars passing on the road, a man hammering something faintly in the background, two bicyclists riding by having a quick-winded conversation, a crow having a squawking match with another crow in the distance.
I sat there, eyes closed and I realized that we were all listening to the same noises.
In everyday life, these sounds just disappear into the background without much notice. But when you are silent yourself, you hear so much more around you, much more than you realize is happening!
(I am reminded of my wise grandmother "GG" saying to me when I was younger,
"There is a reason we were given two ears and only one mouth." Ha, ha! I love that quote!
I sat with this for quite some time. I had some fears about being outside with the children that I also was grappling with. I was a newer educator, and conversing with parents about new or unfamiliar pedagogy was not my strong-suit. I avoided confrontations at all costs, but I knew I was "on" to something here.
I feared that the parents would not approve of their children potentially being cold, or that they feared their children would catch a cold by napping outdoors.
It did spark some interesting conversations for sure!
"What if a cougar jumped the fence?"..... I hadn't thought of that one, but I also wasn't surprised to hear it, as there have been cougar sightings in the past in the wooded area directly behind my house.
"What if I need to call you and I can't get a hold of you?"
This dates me, as we did have a cordless phone, but it often lost full charge the further you got into the yard and they knew this.
"What if you need to use the washroom, will you just leave them outside by themselves?"
again, a valid question deserving of a valid answer.
I prepared a little letter for the parents answering these questions and a few others that came up and then I offered them a chance to respond. I documented what was working well, and what I was also noticing with the children. I took some photos of the children and posted them on the bulletin board by the door.
By week four, everyone was on-board with the outdoor naps, and the children were comfortable with the new routine. The parents enjoyed seeing the photos of their children asleep under the trampoline, and some made comments about how they thought their child slept better at night time lately.
I have run into children even recently, that still remember this (strange concept) of napping outdoors.
"Remember when we slept under the trampoline?" that was so cool!
Sleeping outdoors seems so magical to me. I know that there is a practice in the First Nations communities that they nap their children outdoors.
I have been fascinated with this practice since I became an educator, and read about the Forest schools in Norway! Some of the schools didn't have a building at all, their entire program was run outdoors, all year round. Other programs had a tent or a yurt to protect the children from the extreme weather.
I was having a conversation with my mom one afternoon when I told her about the outdoor sleeping. She laughed at me and replied,
"You always slept outside when you were a baby! I used to take you for a walk in the stroller, and then leave you in it (on the porch) while I tidied the house! You slept for hours!"
The idea of breathing clean fresh air while napping reminded me of the joy you feel from camping in the wilderness. Its exhilarating, it's liberating and it is so darn soothing!
Flash forward to today. Some of the educators in my Infant'Toddler program have been experimenting with outdoor napping for a couple of years now.
There are new struggles with this concept, as we are in a different location on 4 acres of treed forest.
Firstly, I just have to say how incredibly proud I am of these ladies for taking this on! It does require extra planning, and extra work! The cots are not light, and the preparation takes time...but they persevere, and they are rewarded handsomely with quiet, sleeping babies!
In order to honor these educators, and support them as best I can, I am working on some new and exciting plans that will allow all 4 programs to participate in this pedagogy of sleep.
In the next few months, we will be building 4 new "outdoor napping" buildings which will provide the following elements.
1. shelter from falling tree debris and wind
2. a tin roof to lull the children when it rains
3. a separate closet to keep the cots dry and clean
4. electrical power for their music and to hang fairy lights
5. an outdoor washroom
*Supporting the educators and honoring the children is my goal as we move forward with this plan.
This narration,documentation will be continued as we start to build and we photograph the process. Two educators to note especially; Colleen and Delany are passionately living and breathing this pedagogy today.
This is a group effort that I am beyond excited to share!
We never sit still around here!!! ....